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In his workThe Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Benjamin (1936) recognises the fact that the rapid growth of technology was fast taking over art. To understand his source of concern, it is good to know that Benjamin grew up in a time when technological revolution was taking place, and thus, he witnessed a unique border between the beauty of the magic of handiwork and the power of mass production. Before technology, handy craftsmen would produce most items and each item would receive the specialized attention of the craftsman. Technology did not only rob handy workers of their jobs, but also robbed the human race of a very important gift, the craftsmanship. Benjamin was therefore, concerned that the price that humanity had to pay for taking on technology to solve its problems was the loss of the magical creativity of individualized production of item. In his understanding, Benjamin seemed to see creativity as an everyday thing, not just something to be found in the hands and lives of known artists. As a result, every person was an artist in his or her own right in that everything they did was to be done in an artistic way. Because everything production received the attention and the creativity of the individual, each product, therefore, received a form or radiance (or aura) from its creator. In other words, the object was given life from the creator, simply by its interaction with its creator during the production. Technology, on the other hand, was different in that the production had less human interaction, it took only mechanistic and automated processes to produce goods that were so identical, and therefore, they lacked the aura of art. Benjamin’s feelings about technology and deprivation of the human race from the aura of art can be best understood by fact that at the time, the belief in human aura was very pronounced, especially among artists and traditional cultural ambassadors like him. The human aura or the aura of the human body was seen or believed to be a form of warmth and lifelike radiation that emanated and surrounded the human body. As such, Benjamin seemed to believe that, since humans produced and were surrounded by this warmth and radiation, the product they produced and interacted with would also be graced by the same kind of aura in the end. That belief led to his argument that the mass production of goods using mechanistic automation would lead to products that did not have the opportunity to acquirer this aura from the human individual, because the only thing they interacted with was the machines that produced them. Machines are not human and therefore cannot have the aura that means that they cannot transmit the same to the products they produce. Benjamin was right in some way. The technology was killing individual creativity day by day, and artisans were being replaced by clever technology. In the new technological order, the creative mind was no longer important; technology was simply taking over creativity.
It seems like creativity in the production of everyday products was not the only thing Benjamin was concerned with. Even art in its purest from, such as painting and drawing was under massive attack by the arrival of technology. Paintings were being replaced by technology, while photographers were replacing the painters. To Benjamin, this was a disaster in making it, because not only was it dying, but also because the cultural fibre was under attack that would mean that there would be so many other things falling apart, once the little fibres of culture started falling away. To him, if not enough care taken, the technology would end up being more of a curse than a blessing to the society.
A good example of the way art was given in to technological advancements can probably be seen in the invention of a light lens camera. The light lens camera came to replace a very old art of painting. Painting is a very humanistic art and takes very long time to develop a fully developed work of art. Some of the finest paintings, such as Madonna and child took experienced and gifted artists years to produce. Yet, with the light camera, the same portrait that took a lot of creativity could now be produced in a very short time. More than that, a person who was not even an artist could produce the same. In this kind of a set up, the world of art was taking a new direction. The aura of art lost in the power of technology, the role or artists changing from the creative artists to the clever users of technology. In this candid example, it is probably most clear what Benjamin meant by saying that the aura of art would wither in the presence of technology. As photographers took over the work or creative painters, the warmth that a painting would receive from its painter would be lost, because the portrait would be produced only from a mechanistic point of view. The photographer did not even need to understand how the technology behind the camera worked. For this reason, art and technology seemed at war, a war that art was losing on a daily basis. Benjamin, being a cultural observer and critic argued that this would have a fundamental effect not just on art, but also on the cultural interaction in the long run. The root of his concerns, therefore, was not necessarily that art was losing ground and priority, but that the technology was causing a cultural, and therefore, a political revolution.
This point of view led to his argument that as technology continually replaced art and creativity, art would now only be used as the means in the political arena. Benjamin wrote this article in a time and place when the German nation was undergoing the critical political changes, with unorthodox leaders, such as Hitler rising to power. Benjamin was essentially connecting the moral degradation, as well as the political decay to the death art, caused by the arrival of technology. He clearly seemed to have a belief that, since art was developed over a long time within which the human culture was made, its loss would lead tot the admirable human culture, and therefore, as societies readjusted themselves to the new technological order, the price they had to pay would be political and cultural disorder. This argument was to become very influential in many areas of study, despite that the argument has a lot of subjective speculation. Yet even in its wide subjectivity and abstraction, his hypotheses of a society rotting away due to the loss of culture and art seemed to have been witnessed in many cultures and civilizations around the world. While there may not be any evidence that this was because of the technology taking over art, it still does make sense, since there seems to be a high interrelation. The technology as ever since taken over art and creativity (at least in its archaic form) and has produced a new brand of artists. For instance, the computer art (graphics design is a very new form of art that did not even exist at the time when Benjamin wrote his famous paper.
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